By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | September 27, 2011 |
By C. Robert Dimitri | TV | September 27, 2011 |
“So what did you call him? Will I blush?”
“No, we didn’t call him ‘The Doctor.’”
“No, I didn’t think you would.”
Since the departure of Amy and Rory, The Doctor apparently has been bumming around the universe alone for a couple centuries trying to avoid endangering those he loves. I assume he has been hanging out a little with the future version of River Song, prisoner of Stormcage, because we quickly find out that the bulk of this adventure takes place on the eve of the fateful day in Utah when The Doctor was killed in our season opener. If history has not changed, then The Doctor and River have been updating their diaries with adventures with “Jim The Fish” and others.
The Doctor drops in on old friend Craig (from last season’s “The Lodger” - Gareth Roberts returns to pen the sequel) under the pretense that this is merely a social call on a farewell tour. Craig is happy to have The Doctor around, as Sophie has left Craig alone for the weekend, and Craig is finding the new role of fatherhood to son Alfie to be a challenge. Fortunately, as we found out earlier this season, The Doctor speaks baby, calming Alfie and informing Craig that Alfie prefers to be called “Stormageddon, Dark Lord Of All.”
Despite noticing that something is amiss in Craig’s neighborhood related to electricity drains, The Doctor says a quick farewell to Craig and resolves not to become involved. That resolve does not last long; The Doctor’s curiosity and desire to protect the Earth wins out. He acquires a job in the toy section of the department store that is the center of the power fluctuations.
Craig runs into The Doctor while shopping, and the two embark on an investigation to solve the mystery. The Doctor reluctantly lets Craig tag along, after Craig insists that he needs to know what is happening to best protect Alfie. They discover an out of order elevator that operates as a teleportation capsule to and from a Cybermen ship. Trying to keep Craig as oblivious as possible, The Doctor amusingly tries flirting with Craig to keep him from seeing the Cyberman that is approaching them. A squeal of the sonic screwdriver takes them back to the elevator before the Cyberman can attack and temporarily disables the teleporting mechanism. The Doctor tells Craig to take Alfie away, but Craig insists on staying with him.
This exchange carries a little extra resonance given what we know is coming:
“Craig, take Alfie and go.”
“No, I remember from last time. People got killed — people that didn’t know you. I know where it’s safest for me and Alfie, and that’s right next to you.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, you always win. You always survive.”
“Those were the days.”
Back in the department store, The Doctor learns that some sort of “silver mouse” (which we find out is one of the Cybermen’s Cybermats, a creature from the old days of Doctor Who) has been scurrying around the store, while Craig engages in his own comically inept investigation. The Cybermat has been draining the electricity with the aim of powering both the Cybermen ship and the intended conversion process that will change the humans of Earth into Cybermen. After the store closes, The Doctor and Craig capture the Cybermat. The Doctor survives an attack by a Cyberman, and The Doctor and Craig head back home to regroup.
While Craig heads out to the market, The Doctor and Alfie share a Time-Lord-to-baby heart-to-heart. The Cybermat was merely playing possum and interrupts them with an attack. Craig returns home to find it pouncing at his throat with gnashing mechanical teeth. Craig and The Doctor permanently disable it in a physical struggle that is fun in its ridiculousness.
The Doctor again questions the danger that he has brought to Craig and Alfie, and Craig assures The Doctor that the Earth would be a ruin if not for his help. The Doctor attempts to tell Craig that he will not be around to save the Earth much longer, as tomorrow will be the day he dies, but Craig and Alfie have dozed off.
The next day at the department store, The Doctor discovers that the Cybermen ship is not in space but is a crashed relic beneath the ground. Craig leaves Alfie with one of The Doctor’s co-workers and rushes to help him. The Cybermen subdue The Doctor and begin the conversion process on Craig. The Doctor tells Craig that he can fight the transformation by concentrating on his humanity and his emotions. The Doctor cries out that he has always believed in the human race and that he does not mind dying if Craig can prove his faith correct. Craig is apparently encased in Cyberman armor and lost forever, but the cries of Alfie over the department store loudspeaker bring Craig back. The influx of his emotions into the Cybermen’s operating system destroy the Cybermen and their ship. The Doctor and Craig use the teleport machine to escape just in time.
“The Cybermen. They blew up. I blew them up with love,” Craig declares.
“No. That’s impossible and also grossly sentimental and overly simplistic. You destroyed them because of the deeply ingrained hereditary human trait to protect one’s owns genes, which in turned triggered a…uh…uh…yeah…love. You blew them up with love.”
Craig returns home to find that The Doctor has cleaned up the house after the chaos of the Cybermat attack by way of time travel. The Doctor used up his last hours covering for his mate. The Doctor takes his leave, grabbing TARDIS blue envelopes that belong to Sophie (the same envelopes that we saw in the season opener) and receiving a farewell gift of a Stetson hat (also from the opener) from Craig. Sophie returns immediately after, not knowing what has taken place, but she receives a clue when Alfie speaks his first word: “Doctor.”
The Doctor says goodbye at the door of his TARDIS to three neighborhood children that happen to be in the vicinity. Elsewhere, picking up after the events of “Let’s Kill Hitler,” River Song has completed her archaeology degree and pores over the accounts of those children and the recorded legend of The Doctor’s death. Madame Kovarian and cohorts (including a couple of those creepy memory-erasing Silence) appear and inform her that she is still subject to their mind control and about to bring that legend to fruition. They inject her and place her back inside that “Impossible Astronaut” self-sustaining suit. When last we see her, she is waiting at the bottom of the lake for her appointment with The Doctor.
Much like last week’s episode, there is not much heavy lifting happening in the plot itself of “Closing Time.” The Cybermen conflict for The Doctor and Craig is much more personal than it is globally or cosmically harrowing. Similar to “The God Complex” last week, this episode succeeds - and I would have any trouble imagining how any Doctor Who fan would not have at least some affection for this episode - in its depiction of The Doctor and how he feels about his role in the universe on the eve of his death, particularly with respect to his companions. There is tragic resonance to The Doctor’s behavior throughout the adventure, but at the same time The Doctor is true to his own self to the very end, brimming with his manic curiosity and playful humor.
What makes this episode extra fun is the fast, fun dialogue between Matt Smith and James Corden as Craig, particularly those related to translations of Alfie’s gurgles. There were too many fun one-liners for me to think about listing them all. Plus, putting The Doctor in a position to protect Alfie at his life’s beginning with The Doctor’s end almost upon him was a nice dramatic touch and juxtaposition. Matt Smith has a few scenes with kids in this episode that he plays wonderfully, and that rapport he exhibits lets you know that he would make an excellent kindergarten teacher, if being the star of a show so popular with kids over the last fifty years did not work out. (I have referenced this before, but if you have not seen it,
this appearance from 2010 is a great example of how effective of an ambassador Matt Smith is for Doctor Who to the younger generation.)
I also appreciated the cameo by Amy and Rory. The Doctor is torn as he resists saying hello to them at the department store. He watches Amy give a little girl an autograph; Amy is the spokesmodel for a perfume called Petrichor (see “The Doctor’s Wife” earlier this season), “for the girl who is tired of waiting.” I do hope Amy was famous for something else that gave her the modeling gig; the once and future samurai Amy surely must be bound for greater things than simply being a pretty face.
Another nice nod to The Doctor’s storied history over the years comes with a quick reference to K-9. There is enough effective sentiment throughout “Closing Time” to make me question if The Doctor might truly die in the next episode. I am at least very curious about how Steven Moffat will write his way out of this.
The revelation that River Song was in fact in the astronaut suit cannot be too much of a surprise at this point. If The Doctor is to survive, I would guess River’s ingenuity plays a major role and thus makes her a marriageable match for The Doctor, if the title of next week’s finale “The Wedding Of River Song” goes in the direction that has been hinted. After a slightly uneven first half of the season, I do think that Doctor Who has acquired some momentum over the last few episodes that promises a thrilling cliffhanger and/or conclusion.
C. Robert Dimitri does not speak baby, but he does speak robot dog.